In this episode of the Africa Legal podcast series, Warren Beech, one of Africa's most experienced and enormously pragmatic mining lawyers, joins his colleague Koketso Molope, to speak about what lawyers need to do to keep relevant and hands-on in this time of global change.
Warren is Chief Executive of Beech Veltman Incorporated, a firm he established little more than a year ago in Johannesburg with longtime colleague, Nicholas Veltman. The Beech Veltman Inc team are specialists in mining, natural resources and infrastructure and represent clients across Africa.
Koketso, who was recently made a director of the law firm, is a fellow of the South African Institute of Intellectual Property Law, with a special focus on intellectual property law litigation as well as mining and infrastructure. She joined Beech Veltman as a Senior Associate and has very quickly become a stalwart.
Interviewer Tom Pearson, Africa Legal’s Chief Operations Officer, asks Warren what it was that inspired him to go at it alone – especially in the pandemic.
“Our success is down to our relationships with our clients, many of whom have been with us for a long time,” Warren says, “We know the industries where we work very well, and we know what is going on in those industries.”
And it was for this reason the team moved away from the traditional “established law firm” model, he explains. It was a move inspired by client need which was for a more blended approach to the legal services they were being offered.
“(In the established law firms) we were working in silos. This meant that if you needed commercial support or M&A support then a different department in the firm took on that responsibility. What we have now is a far more integrated, responsive and practical model.”
Koketso says it was exactly this multi-disciplinary approach that attracted her to Beech Veltman Inc. because the agile and flexible structure not only met client demand but offered opportunities and job satisfaction for her as a lawyer.
“This is something as young professionals we really need to aspire to as you want growth opportunities that enable you to create a ‘well-rounded’ professional self.”
Building a team that was approachable and “human” was key, says Warren.
“Everyone in the firm has a different history and approach to life and, of course, a different approach to the law and it is exactly this diversity that enables us to deliver the service we do to clients,” he says.
By their nature mining, natural resources and infrastructure are fraught and carry historical baggage that often finds those involved embroiled in disputes. On this point, Koketso explains how arbitration has become the preferred way for many of the firm’s clients to resolve these differences.
“During Covid our courts have struggled to keep things moving and so many clients have found there are benefits to arbitration. It gives you more control, it is more confidential and, if a matter is very specialised, a specialist adjudicator can oversee a matter.”
There are still those who like to litigate, she says, but that usually depends on which side of the legal fray they fall.
This is a fascinating and easy-to-follow conversation with two leading African legal experts. To listen go to:
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